Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Full Circles

No pics from Alex this week. We get to Skype on Christmas, but he didn't have any info on what time yet. He did say that he's glad he'll be staying in Furukawa.

This week has been a hard, but rewarding week. I am so grateful that
God answers prayers, and softens hears, and changes ordinary people
into amazing tools in His hands. 

This week I'm going to ponderize Mathew 10:20 "For it is not ye that
speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Since
this is the most important thing in missionary work, I figured it
would be a good thing to study this week. 

 The kanji of the week is: 奉仕 pronounced "hou-shi," and means service
(sorry if I've already done this one). 

Monday was nothing special, and I can't say we did too much. I'm not
remembering much about that day. 
Tuesday was a lot of going around and trying to talk to people, and we
were able to have a lesson with one less active, and set up an
appointment for the next day with the other. Lot's of traveling in
there too. 

Wednesday we had a last second split with the Zone Leaders, and it was
really fun. I went back down to Furukawa with Elder L., and we went to the less active's house together. It was fun, and we got to do
some good relationship building, and share a good message that she
liked. We also did some studies together, and had our English class.
There were only four students this week, probably because it was
raining. While we were going around, we stopped and talked to a high
school age boy and gave him a Book of Mormon and an English class
flier. He ended up coming to English class, and had a fun time. I hope
he comes again this week. 

Thursday was some more traveling, and we also went to go visit a less
active member when we go back. I can't remember too much about this
day either.

Friday was district meeting, and after the meeting we got a call from
President Smith with announcements on transfers. I am staying in
Furukawa, but I'm getting a new companion. In fact, he's new to the
mission, and will come into Japan tomorrow evening. I don't know who
it is yet, but I will let you all know next week. My companion, Elder
U., doesn't know where he's transferring, but he'll find out on
Thursday at a big meeting everyone will go to that is transferring or
getting a new companion (not a new missionary though, because that's
on Wednesday). This time is different, and it might stay this way
depending on how well it goes. The rest of the day was spent packing
Elder U's stuff, because we were asked to go to the mission home
the next day and he wasn't going to be going back to Furukawa. 

Saturday we had two stake conference meetings, and after those we went
to the mission home. We got back later on in the evening, so we had
dinner, and went to bed. 
Sunday was more stake conference (one session), and it was really
good. I was able to feel the spirit and get direction from all of the
speakers who spoke. I then went on splits with two missionaries who
serve in the mission office area, and we had a lesson with a recent
convert. He was really nice, and his wife (also a member) made us some
food to eat. After that we went back to the apartment and had studies.
Then I reported our numbers, and had an interview with President
Smith. He talked to me about this last transfer, and also about what
he's expecting out of me in this next transfer as I train. It was a
good experience, and I'm glad that he trusts me enough to train. I
won't dishonor that trust!

I hope you all had a good week, and happy thanksgiving! I love you all
from the deepest part of my heart! 


Elder _____

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stuffed Pumpkin Cupcakes

Today there was good stuff and bad stuff. The good was this recipe I tried for the first time that is from Epicuricloud. It's a delicious fall dessert (or any time of year) with the pumpkin cupcake and a cream cheese and chocolate chip filling. The original recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes, but mine made 19. 

I added chocolate icing on them, but you don't need to if you want to be more simple since the filling is plenty special. I included the icing recipe that I used below. I doubled the cupcake recipe and this icing recipe covered almost all of them, which was fine with me to keep 3 or 4 uncovered.  

So for the bad stuff today...my camera is refusing to work today so I had to take photos of the cupcakes with my phone. I am hoping my camera will decide to be nice and start working tomorrow. If not, I'll have to eat a cupcake to drown my sorrows. 

Stuffed Pumpkin Cupcakes


1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
6 oz. mini-chocolate chips

Cake Batter:
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. oil
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake pan with liners.

Filling:  In medium bowl, mix well, cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Cake Batter:  In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and sugars.  In medium bowl, whisk together, eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.

Just fill the bottom of the 16-19 cups with cake batter.  Add a generous dollop of the filling on top of the batter.   Using the rest of the cake batter, evenly spoon a final layer of cake batter over the filling, making sure not to fill the cupcake liner more than 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.
   Fudge Icing
   2 c. granulated sugar
   3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
   ⅔ c. whole milk
   ½ c. salted butter, cut into cubes
   1 1/2 t. vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa powder, and milk together in a large saucepan.

Cook over medium-high heat until large bubbles form. Boil one minute. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Return to medium-high heat and boil until thickens. Remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon until thick and smooth.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Slow and Steady

During the week, we got mail from Alex in our actual mailbox, not just our email inbox. I was glad that he wrote on some fun Japanese paper, but the pages were tiny and he wrote tiny to match so it was a bit hard to read. But it was so nice to get it.

This is just to show that the paper is smaller than my hand and he wrote that much on it.
I just mentioned to him in this past email about receiving his release date in an email and this was his response.

I can't believe that my day of "death" has already been determined! I guess with how well the church organizes things it makes sense though. I never got anything with regards to my release date, and as far as I've seen, you only really find out at the four months left mark. It really drives home the shortness of my mission.

Letter to everyone:
I would just like to start of with a testimony this week. I know that the Scriptures (the Book of Mormon, Bible, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants) are the word of God. I know that God answers every prayer you sincerely send to him in Christ's name (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:14). God is our loving Heavenly Father, and wants us to be happy. As we strive to live according to the teachings of this the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we will become the happiest we could ever be. In the words of a once less-active member who came to love the church: "I used to think I was happy, but I didn’t know what real happiness was." All is in God's hands; trust him, and he will guide you, and support you in all you do.
My scripture of the week is Doctrine and Covenants 6:7 "Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich." I feel like I need to remember how to know the mysteries of God, and remember the importance of wisdom, so that's why I chose this verse.
The kanji of the week is: 病気 pronounced, "bjo(rn)-key" (the parenthesized part is for understanding purposes, and isn't part of the actual pronunciation), and means sickness.
Monday, we went up to the other area's church building and had "district p-day." We decided to play card games, eat snacks, and watch Ephraim's Rescue together. I can't remember what we did in the evening.

Tuesday my companion got sick, and so all we did was stay at home all day. I used the opportunity to get a lot of reading of the scriptures in, both in English and Japanese, but mostly English. I also did some small chores around the house.
Wednesday was spent in similar manner, with the exception of English class in the evening. That was fun, and we had some new students come again. Now if only we could get them all to come at the same time! We had ten people there, and it was a party. I had fun, and love being around people.
Thrusday we went up to Izumi again for a district meeting. We had lots of good things talked about during the meeting, and I gave a "training" on "being a successful missionary." I'm sure people got something out of it, but I felt like it wasn't the best I've ever done. But that's fine, because the teacher isn't me, it's the Spirit! After the meeting, Elder H., my MTC companion's new missionary and I went back to Furukawa together on splits. We didn't have much time, and the entire night was spent trying to fix a bike, and some "behind the scene" missionary stuff like buying name tags for English class (it was the only time I remembered about it while we were at a store that had them at the same time as bike stuff). The bike is all good now, except the front light is now broken.
Friday, we had a good time with studies, but we missed the bus that we were going to take to get up to Izumi for a role-play lesson with the other two missionaries and a service project as well. I forgot the phone at the apartment anyway, so we quickly went back, got the phone, and got on the next bus up. We waited for a bit at the church for the other two to come back from the service project, and talked for a bit. They ended up being too busy for a "lesson" right then, so Elder U. and I went back to Furukawa. I think he was still a bit sick, but I can't remember what happened after that.
Saturday was once again spent indoors due to sickness (Elder U. is not terribly sick, but sick enough to have caused him to be in bed all day). I again studied a lot, and did some small house-work items.
Sunday brought the primary program in sacrament meeting. There are only two kids in primary here, but it was still a great program. The two kids recited a lot of the Articles of Faith by themselves, and also sang some good primary songs. One of them was loud when he sang, but quiet when he spoke, and one of them was quiet when he sang and loud when he spoke. It was very enjoyable. After that, we had studies, and also went to go visit a member with the branch president that we haven't seen in a few weeks (he's moved here from America a while back, apparently). We didn't catch him at home, but let a treat and a note for him at his house.
That's about all for this week! There was a lot of being in the apartment, but I am glad for the spirit I felt, and for the opportunity to learn more about my savior and the gospel while my companion was sick (I think he's better now). I hope you all have a good week! Love you all, and I will keep you in my prayers.
Elder _______

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sharing Feelings

Alex sent a letter to everyone this week and a few pics. I asked him to take some photos of the streets he walks on and things he sees every day. Haha. I guess I got that.

To everyone:
This week was a very emotional week for me, and part of that reason is because of the passing away of a brother here in Furukawa. I never met him, because he had been hospitalized since I got here, but the stories I heard of him really make me think he was a good man. As we proceeded with the funeral services this week, I, for whatever reason, could feel the loss of those who were mourning. It wasn't just an imagined feeling, but was real. As I looked upon those who were crying, I cried with them. I am not trying to say I'm something special, but it was a small insight into the verse found in John 11, specifically verse 35: "Jesus wept." I am nowhere near the magnificence of Him who atoned for us all, yet if I could feel people's pain to such an extent as I did, then how much more can He! Jesus knows all of our pains, personally, and specifically. Turn to Him, because He knows how to make it better.
My ponderizing scripture of the week is Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." I
chose this verse because I have really felt like I need to do exactly
as it directs, and so ponderizing about it will help me remember it
more often.
The kanji of the week is: 気持ち pronounced "key-moe-chi" and means feelings.
                                                  Watching Ephraim's Rescue (a movie)
Monday was spent quickly getting some winter gear for my companion, grocery shopping, and emailing. When we went to email, we found out about the death mentioned above, which happened that morning, I think. Because of that and a party that we said we would help with (and all the flood of thoughts that were going through my head that day) I forgot/ didn't have time for a mass email. I assure you that I am alive and well!
Tuesday, we went and had lunch with an investigator and her husband. Their grandson is a member, and is in a mission as a missionary I met in the MTC. It was a good lunch, but we had to hurry from that over to the church, most of the day was spent doing funeral stuff (the cremation ceremony). It was a privilege to take part in a Japanese funeral, and was an unforgettable experience. We also went to a less active member's house after that, and shared a quick message.
A burned out house that remains standing long after the fire, not an uncommon thing here
Wednesday, after a morning of seminary, was spent trying to meet people who weren't able to meet (one person, we found out later, was really sick), and knocking on doors. Not too much came from that again, unfortunately. We had a few new people at English class though, and I'm really happy about that. We had a good time together, and I like the students here.
Thursday, we tried to meet a potential investigator, but they ended up not having interest. Then, we went to a less active members house, and talked about the parable of the sower. I learned about following the promptings of the Spirit during that meeting, because I got the impression that we should leave, but didn't want to interrupt the person talking. As soon as we got done with that, we got a call from a potential investigator that he wanted us to meet right then at the church, and we were 20 minutes away. The lesson went well, and he said that he wants to keep meeting with us.
Friday was zone training meeting, and studies. Not much else happened that day. It was a good learning experience though.
Our famous couch in the apartment with reclinable arm rests and reclinable back. Pretty cool. 
Saturday we had the funeral service, like the memorial service, I
think. It was a great place to feel the spirit, and a great
opportunity to help comfort others in the time of loss. The rest of
the day was studies and planning.
Sunday we had a good sacrament meeting, and I gave a talk on President Packer's talk from April General Conference of this year: The Plan of Happiness. After church we did studies, walked around in the rain (with umbrellas) trying to find people to talk to, and did a bit more weekly planning.
I would just like to end this email by saying something I have said
many times before: you never know how much influence on others you have. Whether that is brought by a smile, a simple hello, or listening to someone when they're having a hard time. Sometimes you even have influence on others when you are separated by distance or time. So do things that you think are truly good for others. You'll see wonders, even if it's only in the next life when you see them.
Thank you for your love, and sorry about last week! I pray for you all!
Elder _____

Monday, November 2, 2015

No Letter

Alex didn't send a "To Everyone" letter this week, I think for the first time. He wrote me a short letter and mentioned that they were busy and he couldn't write much to me. But I did get more pics than last week so that's good. Too bad he's only in two of them. 

Cheesecake that a member made them.
 Alex said his trainer Elder O. is in these photos with some other missionaries when they were in Furukawa, where Alex is now. Looks like he took pictures of pictures. He said that you can see that this apartment has a couch and is known for being the only apartment in the mission with a couch. 

Alex said he and his companion had to take a photo for a Christmas video and they thought this would be funny.